Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#ComicsWednesday: Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura

When I'm stressed, something that always helps me relax is to watch a video of jellyfish swimming. They're both comical and elegant, and if I ever win the lottery, I'm going to Palau to swim in the lake filled with jellyfish that don't sting you. It's safe to say that I like jellyfish, probably a bit more than most people, but compared to Tsukimi, the main character of Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura, I'm barely a fan.

When Tsukimi was young her mother took her to see jellyfish in an aquarium, which happened to be their last outing together before her mother became very ill and died. Tsukimi clings tightly to the joy of her visit to the aquarium by learning everything she can about jellyfish. Unfortunately, an obsession with jellyfish combined with severe social anxiety means that Tsukimi grows up to be an otaku (a geek or nerd, think Big Bang Theory).

Luckily, Tsukimi finds her community within Amamizukan, a shared house for women in Tokyo. All of the residents are women, all are socially awkward and unfashionable, and each has her own unique and all-consuming passion. Society refers to them as fujoshi (meaning female otaku). They call themselves "amars" or "nuns" because the last thing that brings them together is that they live "a life with no use for men."

One night after a particularly disappointing social failure, Tsukimi visits a neighborhood aquarium shop to talk to the small spotted jellyfish in the window display, whom she's named Clara. However, Tsukimi discovers that a moon jellyfish has been added to Clara's tank, creating a dangerous situation for her favorite jellyfish. Tsukimi draws on every ounce of bravery she possesses and confronts the fashionable young man working in the shop to save Clara's life. It's not enough, until a stylish young woman passing by steps in and negotiates a diplomatic solution that results in Tsukimi taking Clara home to Amamizukan, along with her knight in shining, six-inch stilettos.

In the morning, Tsukimi discovers that her rescuer is actually a stylish young man in drag named Kuranosuke (or Kurako when dressed as a woman). Friendship, politics, romance, makeovers, a fight against gentrification, and hijinks ensue, all blending together to form an upbeat and charming story told over the course of eight double-size volumes.
Like many manga that we see in English translation, part of the story has been adapted to a one-season anime, which I can also recommend. However, before you take on either version of this story I should warn you that one character is drugged and led to believe that he was raped by the main antagonist of the series. It's a disturbing enough event that some might prefer to avoid this otherwise enjoyable story.

~Sarah, Adult Services

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